Interview at Hotel Marsyangdi- [ From right to left- Dr. Harsh Shah, Mr. Atul Karwal and Mr. Gaurav Shah]
The group of fourteen Indian cyclists from Ahmadabad Cycling Club dared to cycle in the tough conditions of Tibet. They knew the adventure would be a hard-hitting challenge. The comfort wasn’t there and moreover, the cultural difference chiefly language barrier would heighten the adventurous challenge of this trip. However, adventure aficionados from India expected the greatest level of exploratory difficulties. They dared and experienced the extreme adventure which involved high elevation, breathtaking Tibetan landscapes, sacred Kailash Mansarovar and most importantly the demanding cycling for quite a few long days. Hats off! We salute you for your daring endeavor.
An experience of a lifetime….desires fulfilled
Here, we have an interview with the group leader of this team Dr. Harsh Shah and the integral part of this team Mr. Autul Karawal.
EH: You decided to come to Tibet and tour around the Friendship Highway and Kailash Mansarovar, how was your overall tour?
Dr. Harsh: Basically there were two parts. Cycling part on which we were prepared well. However we were not well prepared for the altitude. So, altitude put us little back. Back home we would cycle 30km per hour which, is at sea level altitude but here, in Tibet we were able to cycle 15-20km per hour. For proper acclimatization and comfortable ride we would need 15 full days for this trip. To the best of our capability we did this part. Next the parikrama (circumambulation) part, nine of us completed the parikrama and five of them completed the half of it. Overall, the trip was great.
Sun sets down………….few miles still to go
EH: You could have easily explored these places on an overland tour, why did you choose to cycle?
Dr. Harsh: Original plan to come here was for cycling we didn’t come here for the circumambulation (parikrama). Since, we were at Kailash Mansarovar we thought of giving a shot to circumambulate.
EH: Was your expectation fulfilled during the trip?
Dr. Harsh: Our expectation is fulfilled. We are happy that we could do it. We are happy that we decided to do it and dared to do it. We knew that there are going to be difficulties from all sides- from the organizing sides and our capabilities sides. There was nothing that we didn’t expect. Five of us who didn’t cycle, they are also happy to progress at the speed where they could enjoy the entire landscapes of the region. If they were traveling by car they would have missed everything on the way since they would stop every 300km. Since we stopped every ten kilometers we absorbed every bit of Tibetan landscapes and atmosphere.
Time to let go exhaustion
EH: You traveled all the way from India to Nepal and cycled along the Friendship Highway in Tibet, what differences did you notice between Nepal and Tibet culturally and geographically?
Dr. Harsh: Culturally we were not exposed to highly cultural difference of Tibet. But the main difference was language. Because of the language we were unable to interact properly with the Tibetans who were very nice and curious in what we did. On the commercial side, the way Tibetan drivers and guides acted, we knew they were not used to doing the cycling trips for Kailash Mansoravar Pilgrimage Tour. They are perfect for the Overland Trips however; cycling was a different trip on which they might have failed to understand us. Again language might have been an obstacle to understand each other.
EH: Are you happy with the services provided by the team of Explore Himalaya?
Dr. Harsh: Very happy!
The final destination-holy Mount Kailash
EH: What are the areas to improve we can work on to make the trip more exciting and facilitating?
Dr. Harsh: This cycling tour can be perfect if the Tibetan drivers can be taken in confidence. Unlike, the overland tour cycling has different issues. It has the issues of fatigue, mechanical breakdown and physical injuries. All these things should be considered to make this trip a paramount of all tours.
EH: Now, let me change the topic, how do you feel when you reached your final destination Kailash Mansarovar?
Dr. Harsh: We came here to do it and we were happy to reach there.
Mr. Atul: Let me add to it. I had been here eight years back for a month tour. This was a short one but amazingly different and better. As he mentioned we cycled through the landscapes and we were not inside the controlled environment of a car. There was no temperature control or music on. If we were inside a car with ideal temperature and music on, outside you would miss a lot flashing pass the windscreen. Here we were into it. We had rain, we had pain, we had harsh cold, and we had sleep. Everything was intense and the overall trip was intensely beautiful.
Reaching Mansarovar was a wonderful experience. On the last day we cycled 40k to reach Mansarovar where we released our entire exhaustion. Reaching Mnasarovar was a fulfilling and an absolute joy.
Feast to the eyes- Tibetan Landscapes
EH: How do you describe the trip in one single word?
I am not the type of person that would usually take a trip from Beijing to Kathmandu by land. I had no idea what international travel was like or how difficult it can be gaining entry into Tibet. In fact I still don’t because Explore Himalaya made it easy for me.